Sons of Apollo “Psychotic Symphony” Album Review + Music Videos

Sons of Apollo

Psychotic Symphony – Vinyl // CD // DD

Inside Out Music – Released: October 20, 2017

Reviewed by Eric Layhe

 

Tracklist:
God of the Sun (11:12)
Coming Home (4:23)
Signs of the Time (6:43)
Labyrinth (9:23)
Alive (5:06)
Lost in Oblivion (4:28)
Figaro’s Whore (1:04)
Divine Addiction (4:42)
Opus Maximus (10:39)

American Rock Supergroup featuring:
Mike Portnoy – Drums
Derek Sherinian – Keyboards
Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal – Guitar
Billy Sheehan – Bass
Jeff Scott Soto – Vocal

 

Pro Band Pic

 

Former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy is a man with many hats. Granted, most of those hats are as a drummer, he has many hats nonetheless. His latest project, yet another Progressive Metal Supergroup called the Sons of Apollo, may actually be his strongest. Sons of Apollo, comprised of Portnoy, fellow Ex-Dream Theater bandmate Derek Sherinian on Keyboards, former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, Mr. Big Bassist Billy Sheehan, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra vocalist Jeff Scott Soto.

Psychotic Symphony is essentially exactly what you would expect from a Portnoy excursion – it’s essentially a Dream Theater album with a harder edge. That’s not a bad thing, however. As long as you like this very distinct and often-imitated sound, you will be very pleased with this album. Solos galore, plenty of irregular time signatures, and top-notch musicianship abound.

As a slightly lesser-known name in the music business, one would expect Jeff Scott Soto to be something of a weak link in the band, but that is simply not true. Soto has a very muscular baritone that does the music plenty of justice and he is a welcome addition to the band. During the Sons of Apollo’s formative year, they sampled quite a few vocalists, such as Strapping Young Lad Virtuoso Devin Townsend and King’s X wailer Doug Pinnick, and Soto just happened to be the one to stick around.

The Production on this album is notable, being performed by band members Portnoy and Sherinian. The mix is very, very bassy, with a lot of priority being given to lower tones over higher ones. The bass is very audible and few keyboard lines go to very high pitches. Even the guitar is tuned as a baritone guitar, all the way down to B Standard tuning for any guitar players reading this. This grants the entire album significant edge and weight, allowing for a heavy groove in nearly every song. However, such a priority on lower sounds can occasionally result in the songs sounding muddled, especially in faster songs like the blistering “Lost in Oblivion”.

As usual with Progressive Metal, the longer tracks are easily the highlight — in this case, “God of the Sun” and the Instrumental “Opus Maximus”, but this whole album is a recommended listen for any and all fans of Progressive Metal. If musical self-indulgence and sheer showcases of talent is a turnoff for you, then this probably earns a skip, but if those things instead pique your interest, then you’ve probably already bought this album. Otherwise, go pick up Sons of Apollo’s “Psychotic Symphony”.


GoatWhore “Vengeful Ascension” Album Review + Stream..

GOATWHORE

Vengeful Ascension –Vinyl // Digital Download // CD

Metal Blade Records – Released – June 23 2017

Reviewed by Mike Hackenschmidt

 

Line Up:
Ben Falgoust/ Vocals
Sammy Duet / Guitars and Vocals
Zack Simmons / Drums
James Harvey / Studio Bass
Robert “TA” Coleman / Live Bass

Born:
December 20, 1996

Review:

GoatWhore: Just saying the name puts a smile on my face. Say it with me now: GoatWhore. Did you smile? If you didn’t I’m willing to guess you didn’t say it out loud. Maybe you’re on a bus or waiting for the doctor and afraid to be judged? Toughen up a little. PC culture would love to take our GoatWhore away. Are you going to sit back, stay silent and let them take our GoatWhore? Let me hear you! GOATWHORE!

Fuck that feels better! I sure got some dirty looks stopping through white bread America wearing my GoatWhore shirt on my way home from seeing them live at Full Terror Assault. (Check this shit out, best kept secret in American metal). Seeing GoatWhore live has been a treat each time. The energy is electric and these guys know this full well. In fact, according to their Facebook page when they recorded Vengeful Ascension, GoatWhore aspired to match the live experience as much as possible. Let me say, they 100% have the right idea. On one hand, it’s unfortunate that you simply can’t package up the energy of a GoatWhore concert so they’ll never reach this goal. On the other hand it’s fortunate you can’t simulate a GoatWhore concert because you’ll never be able to download it and that means you have to get off your ass and go see them. Each time I have, Ben Falgoust says roughly the same thing (paraphrased): “Get the album. Buy it from the merch booth, off Bandcamp or steal it off the internet BUT come out to a concert and support the band.” So just what are we stealing off the internet?

First the cover of Vengeful Ascension depicts what I believe to be their rendition of Lucifer, having fought his way back from the depths of hell and risen to the earth, clutching the sun and marking it with some sort of magic symbol. He appears to be sucking the energy out of it and into himself no doubt to power himself for impending battle. This imagery seems to hold true to the theme of the album. Straight from their Facebook page, the following is what they intended the album to be all about. I feel compelled to directly quote Falgoust, his words eloquent and clear:

“There’s that whole idea of Lucifer being the anti-hero. He’s cast out from this place in Heaven to the depths of nothing. He keeps trying to ascend to the top again but no matter what, there’s always this significant force trying to destroy him at any point and banish him back to Hell. If you look at it from an everyday aspect in life, it’s the idea of people, hitting the bottom of the barrel or you know, things just aren’t going right in life… emotion plays a huge part in how people react. Whether it’s based on love or hatred or sadness or whatever, there’s always an aspect of emotion that drives people to an extent. So the whole idea of a ‘Vengeful Ascension’ is built on being at the bottom, working your way to the top, and realizing along the way that there’s other facets to the journey aside from just pure retribution. Within negativity there can exist a positive angle as well.”

I would have needed to write a 10,000 word essay to convey this concept. And for this idea alone I would buy this album and use it as a theme to my rise.

live Shot

Musically speaking, Vengeful Ascension is very similar to what GoatWhore has been offering up for the past 17 years. They somehow manage to blend elements of several different sub-genres together in order to create their own unique sound. Wikipedia lists GoatWhore as “Blackened Death Metal”, whatever that means. GoatWhore’s Facebook page list them simply as “Metal”, which I feel is more accurate. Album to album, track to track we get emphasis on different sub-genres. Vengeful Ascension leans toward black more so than any.

Track 2, “Under the Flesh, Into the Soul” has elements of speed metal yet mysteriously sounds like something that might have come out of Dimmu Borgir’s playbook. This is one of my favorite tracks on this album and these jerks have not deviated from the practice of giving the most complicated titles to the earworms. Try yelling out “Under the Flesh, Into the Soul” between songs next time you see them live. As if to prove my point, “Mankind Will Have No Mercy” shows up later on the album again with that speed metal feel that I can’t get enough of. This one probably has the least blackness on the album.

They follow this up with the title track, “Vengeful Ascension”. Again, this track is heavy in the black metal but thankfully not without a slightly off-key melody. Later tracks, “Abandon Indoctrination” and “Those Who Denied God’s Will”, are structured very similarly. It allows the track to keep that black metal feel without being boring.

Pro Band P

Where the “Sun is Silent” is a slower paced track, thankfully the only one of its kind on Vengeful Ascension. I’ll admit my bias right now; I want to spend my live GoatWhore experience in the pit. I’m getting a bit old so one or two slow ones is a welcome breather. I really don’t have time for any more than that.

In summation, Vengeful Ascension is another great GoatWhore album. The band wants you to hear it and it sounds to me like they don’t really care how. The one caveat is that you go out to the shows. I think that’s a pretty fair deal. For those who just aren’t in the right geographical area or for those who aren’t in a financial position: Go back and review the Falgoust quote above and use it as motivation to bring yourself into a better position where you can afford to get out to a show or maybe plan that trip to the festival you’ve always been dreaming of… where you’re sure to see GoatWhore… and maybe pick up a shirt too.


Xanthochroid “Of Erthe and Axen” Album Review + Video…

XANTHOCHROID 

Of Erthe and Axen – Act I (of 2) – CD // DD

Self Released – August 22nd, 2017

Reviewed by Ric “Suisyko” Dorr

 

 

Born:  January 2005

Location:

Lake Forest, California USA

Previous Releases:

“Blessed He With Boils” (2012)

“Incultus” (2014)

Disc I [Act I]
01. Open the Gates, O Forest Keeper
02. To Lost And Ancient Gardens
03. To Higher Climbs Where Few Might Stand
04. To Souls Distant And Dreaming
05. In Deep And Wooded Forests Of My Youth
06. The Sound Of Hunger Rise
07. The Sound Of A Glinting Blade
08. The Sound Which Has No Name

 

Review:
Listing influences from ALIEN ANT FARM to Opeth, Moonsorrow to Wintersun and even DIMMU BORGIR, this three piece has no compunction about letting you know that this is not your average ‘every-man’ style of music but geared more towards the intelligencia among us and have all of the tools in their possession to show you why. They are self-described as ‘an Epic Black-Metal band that strives to produce the most sophisticated and enthralling compositions’, further citing that Xanthochroid is ‘not for the casual listener, but for the true connoisseur who demands more depth, more detail, and more musicality than what is out there presently.’

Pro Band Pic

From the winding recesses of the mind of Sam Meador, the focus of the band came together through combining the desire to create moving stories with a love for pagan mythology into an ever evolving mythos, the music tells a story of a long power struggle between Thanos and Ereptor, two brothers who are heir to a deceased king fighting over the rightful kingship of the land of Septentria. This release and Part II (due Oct 17 2017) are being touted as a prequel to the two previous releases, further filling in the missing from the tales as woven to this point.

Xanthochroid offers up 8 tracks totaling 43 minutes and each is presented in the full cinematic method this trio has established to be their norm. Even the names of the individual tracks invoke a feeling of more than just another song title, from opener ‘Open The Gates O Forest Keeper’ which immediately popped Opeth in my brain, to ‘In Deep and Wooded Forests of My Youth’ that has all of the flourish of any black/folk song out there with the added panache of vocals that come out of the surrounding mists you can smell as the music flows across and underneath you. Operatic at times, multi-layered harmonies and instrumentation executed with bravado in precision-filled performances.

The last three tracks I would presume to be a three-part tome as each has a specific ‘Sound’ reference, ‘The Sound Of Hunger Rises’, ‘The Sound of a Glinting Blade’ and ‘The Sound Which Has No Name’, all strung together. Flowing one to the next and wrapping this with the darkest track musically, almost sounding as if Dany Filth himself had a hand in the writing.

The anticipation for Part II is already building and with this release, the scope widens even further! If you are not a fan yet, get this as a perfect starting point and if are already ‘aware’, continue the voyage adding this release to your library, share those that do not know and witness the spectacle LIVE if you are granted the chance… keep it LOUD!!

Pro Band Pic


Blues Funeral “Awakening” Album Review + Video…

 

Blues Funeral

Awakening – CD // DD

Self Released – August 25th, 2017

Reviewed by Terry “The Ancient One” Cuyler

 

Line-up:
Jan Kimmel (El Janni) – Guitar, Nord, Vocals
Maurice Eggenschwiler – Guitar, Vocals
Cory Cousins – Drums
Gabriel Katz – Bass

Right now I’m sitting here at my laptop struggling put words together to describe what I just heard, and come right to the point rather than lose you in the lines of a long rambling review. Doing so will be difficult but I must try. Not too long ago I got a promo release of the new album “Awakening” by Blues Funeral, the band’s sophomore album.

Live Band Montage

 

As one who feels music rather than just hears it, playing what’s described by Blues Funeral as music influenced by “Early rock, proto-metal, jazz, classical, and things that make your skin crawl”  this is definitely the kind of music that speaks to me. What impressed me most about “Awakening” was the whole package. The harmonious vocals, the lofty guitar leads with earthy rhythms and the drums that gives the music a heart. This music took me back to listening to the late nights listening rebroadcasts of “The King Biscuit Flower Hour” on the local Classic Rock station were I was schooled on rock as a teen.

“Awakening” is what I would call a new AOR (Album Oriented Record) classic.  If you dig bands like “Deep Purple”, “Cream”, Led Zeppelin and The Allman Brothers then you are sure to dig this. The flow of the album renders you to listen to it in its entirety to let the sonic glory shower down and permeate into your being. These are the songs that stood out most for me:

‘Awakening,’ the albums title track sounds like kickass hybrid of a 60’s proto metal and classic 80’s metal song and establishes the band’s sound for the listener. Taking the lead guitarist and vocalist Maurice Eggenschwiler opens playing a soaring guitar lead in and is then followed by a soulful organ lead by electric organist, guitarist, and vocalist Jan Kimmel (El Janni). Throughout the song El Janni and Eggenschwiler play both competing and complimentary sounds that kept me waiting to hear what was next.

Track 4 ‘Firedrake’ blew me away. Featuring the vocals of Ms. Kelly Cousins with Lyrics by: Jan Kimmel.   This song is inspired by “Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road” and speaks of hopes and aspirations in a post apocalyptic world. Full of organ, bluesy guitar riffs and leads;  Eggenschwiler,  El Janni, and Ms. Cousins are simply amazing.  Refusing to let up Track 5 “Casimir” grabs the listener with lofty guitar and vocal leads, melodies, harmonies and rhythms.  While Eggenschwiler and El Janni are as amazing in The closing track ‘The Gathering Dust’ drummer Cory Cousins, and bassist Gabriel Katz shine through.  The riffs are sublime and hard hitting.  A perfect way to finish this release in proper form…EXCEPTIONAL!!

Blues Funeral will be playing a CD release show on August 25th at White Oak Music Hall in Houston, Texas alongside DoomstressFiddle Witch and the Demons of Doom.

 


Elder “Reflections Of A Floating World” Album Review & Stream…

Elder

Reflections Of A Floating World – Vinyl // CD // DD

Stickman Records/Armageddon Label – Release Date: June 2nd, 2017

Reviewed by Andy “Dinger” Beresky

 

Today I’m going to talk a little about conflicts of interest.  That’s a pretty scarce topic in the realm of the music world, though for me, it’s always that proverbial elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about, or even acknowledge.  Why?  Because conflicts of interest is pretty much business as usual in the music biz and I don’t think that it’s often on people’s collective radars as a result.  Why am I choosing this particular topic as the item of interest du jour?  Because in full disclosure, I’ve had a long history with Elder, and I’d hate for any of you to think that my objective subjectivity could be in any way tainted by either personal interests or outside influences.

If you think about it, it’s fairly obvious why Elder and Black Pyramid would have so much history.  Both bands were coming into their own around the same time, in the same geographic area, Massachusetts, initially playing a similar style of post-Sleep stoner doom, and we were both signed to the same label, Meteorcity.  We often shared billings on New England shows, heck I remember playing basement shows in Providence, Rhode Island with these guys before any of them were even old enough to drink legally (they didn’t let that stop them).  I borrowed Nick’s amplifier at the Stoner Hand Of Doom festival when the reverb tank of my trusty Ampeg V-4 went to shit and took the rest of the amp with it.  I went out and bought a Soundcity 120 like his afterwards, and eventually Jack from Elder used it as a bass amp when we were sharing a bill in Keene, New Hampshire.  I slept on Matt’s sister’s couch after a High On Fire show in Boston, and I don’t think that she was particularly pleased to wake up to a strange hairy beardo, so I quickly made myself scarce.  Even when I had taken a full hiatus from music, Nick gently urged me back to towards playing again, and Matt encouraged me to come over to jam with he and Nick, as they were both living in Western Mass. at the time.  This is an offer that I sadly declined, but that’s besides the point.  The point is, these guys were my brothers-in-arms, my friends and my musical family, so obviously I have every reason to write them a glowing review, right?

This seems like a particularly pertinent time for this discussion because I don’t think that anyone is going to dispute that Elder are amazing, so my glowing review is just going to be E Pluribus Unum, one of many, out of the many, one, par for the course.  I don’t think anyone would seriously question my journalistic integrity because of this review….well, no more than they normally would anyways.  It’s not like I’m writing that some previously unknown and seemingly mediocre band is the greatest thing since sliced pepperoni pizza and cheap beer, and you later find out that they’re actually my drinking buddies and pizza pals.  That would of course be highly suspect, wouldn’t it?  But Elder have rightfully earned their place in the pantheon of heavy psychedelic rock, so I’m considering myself relatively safe.

As I’ve written in past reviews, I shouldn’t be safe.  You shouldn’t inherently trust my opinion.  You shouldn’t inherently trust any reviewer’s opinion, really.  Most of those opinions will be rife with conflicting interests: the desire to see their favorite bands succeed, wanting to do favors for friends, wanting to please the powers that be, mainly the labels that are supplying them with free music, etc.  It becomes a bit like politics – the longer someone is in the game, the more they start to develop relationships that serve themselves rather than the constituency they initially aimed to and still claim to serve.    Eventually the conflicting motivations become deeply embedded, unconscious, second nature.  Many reviewers are nothing more than wannabe taste makers who think that they should personally possess the power to decide who succeeds and who does not.  Many write for the sake of their own ego, getting off on their own wordiness and acclaim as writers rather than the music that they supposedly serve.  Many simply follow trends, or just write safe as milk, formulaic reviews because it pays the bills.  No one is totally pure or entirely immune, no matter how noble their initial intent.   It eventually becomes all about influence. In the end, in some way, shape and form, they all end up serving The Threefold God Of Influence: Power, Fame, Money. They are under the influence.  You can’t trust them.  You can’t trust me.  I have my own agenda; it’s just not any of those particular things, is it?

Pro band Pic

On their first album, Elder had a song called “The Riddle Of Steel.”  I’m sure most of you are familiar with the original Conan The Barbarian movie, where Conan’s father waxes poetic about trust.  He talks about how you can’t trust anything in this world except your sword.  Wise words, though I believe that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword, and that’s the crux of my agenda.  I’ll tell you who I believe that you should trust: trust your own taste and opinion.  Trust yourself.  Think for yourself.  Choose for yourself. This, this you can trust.

The subject matter of Elder’s latest magnum dopus also makes my rant timely, as it ties right into the themes of the album itself.  In many ways, I believe that Elder and I are actually saying the same things through different mediums, though I’m much more blunt about it while they utilize an elaborate allegory, mainly that of the floating world.  Known as Ukiyo, the term is a reference to life in urban Japan during its period of high feudalism.  The typical Japanese city-dweller would embrace the many aspects of Ukiyo: the beauty, the artistry, the culture, along with the flip side, the decadence and the corruption, whereas the Buddhists saw the floating world as the very apotheosis of the dualistic illusions from which they sought to escape.

The music industry, in many ways, is much like the floating world, and I’m fairly certain that despite their youth, they’ve been in it deep enough and long enough to recognize the similarities.  On Reflections Of A Floating World, it’s unclear if Elder are holding up a mirror to the conflicting realities of modern life, or directly commenting on music in the way that I’ve chosen to in the context of this review.  I suppose that in the end, it doesn’t really matter, as our precious little music scene is nothing if not a microcosm of a larger cultural phenomena.  I truly don’t think that we can separate one from the other – great art in my book will always be relevant to what is going on at the moment; it will always harness the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, the collective unconscious, first and foremost as its muse.  That’s what makes music feel immediate. It’s what makes it sound urgent.

This to me is Elder’s crowning achievement.  Many people loved Lore.  It was good and in many ways a high point stylistically, though I found it to be a bit disjointed, in both flow and execution.  It seemed largely like a transitional album, a band trying out new things and new directions, and despite its reception and overall promise, there was something off about it for me, something strangely stunted and one dimensional.  Not a popular opinion, I’m well aware, and I don’t care. I could give two shits about popular opinion, and so should you. Reflections Of A Floating World is superior in my opinion, for many reasons.  First and foremost, Nick’s vocals are better than they’ve ever been.  You may or may not recall that on the earliest of Elder releases, his vocals were basically sludge-based screams and growls.  He’s gradually adopted a cleaner style with each release, and with Reflections Of A Floating World, he’s settled into a style which emphasizes a more high pitched register while keeping the melodies relatively simple.  It works well – he doesn’t really sound like anyone else, and his approach doesn’t overshadow Elder’s strongest element, their compositional prowess.  Sure, they’re still largely monotonal, there’s little movement melodically, though they’re not the key ingredient to what makes this album shine.  It’s all about the instruments.  Sometimes less is more, and I believe that vocals should always be considered just another instrument in the overall mix.

Throughout the course of six songs and sixty odd minutes, Elder essentially put on a clinic , divine a prophecy, show us the future of a genre that’s badly in need of reinvention.  The structure, writing, and production of this album is nothing short of stellar.  Seriously.  This is a landmark album.  This will come to be considered one of the high water marks, an album that will come to define and even re-define the genre.  I don’t say this lightly, and I’m honored to know these cats.   I’ve never heard a “stoner” album with such a nuanced atmosphere, such a multitude and magnitude of textures.  There’s all sorts of amazing tones and effects on the guitars, and the addition of a second guitar has certainly added an entire other dimension to Elder’s sound.  I have a feeling that it mostly gives Nick more freedom and breathing room to lay down leads and still have a foundation of riffs underneath, and there are also lots of cool harmonized and orchestrated guitar parts throughout.  Despite the fact that this cat can rip it up, Nick’s  guitar work is largely restrained; the solos are sparse and never come off as showboating.  They’re tailor made for whatever each musical moment requires, and flashy or not, Elder set their fretboards ablaze with the light of inspiration, passion, and intent.  There’s also some flourishes of piano, keyboard, Theremin and mellotron at crucial points to add to the atmosphere.  It’s all very well done and never over the top – the album retains a nice balance throughout.  The rhythm section perfectly compliments this dynamic, lingering underneath with a pulsing intensity, though never overshadowing the whole or eclipsing the entirety.  The clarity of the production allows all of these elements to simultaneously shine.

It’s worth mentioning that this album is a bit long in the tooth.  Each of these six songs is an epic in and unto itself, with the first four clocking in at over the 10 minute mark, and the longest at nearly 13 minutes and a half minutes.  Even the Krautrock influenced instrumental, “Sonntag”, is eight minutes and forty seconds.  That’s a lot to take in, especially with all the detail that’s gone into crafting this record.  It demands active engagement on the part of the listener in order to appreciate the album’s nuances.  Maximum attentions reaps maximum rewards.

Elder have already proven themselves to be quite a force, through the strength of both their recorded output and their live performances.  They’ve toured all over the world, playing to audiences both big and small.  It’s hard to imagine they won’t be riding a wave of buzz and critical acclaim after this album drops, though it’s also tough to tell where their path will ultimately lie.  Surely more doors will open, more opportunities present themselves, though will this lead Elder deeper into the musical equivalent of The Floating World, or will it allow them the freedom to carve their own niche and to divine their own personal path?

EU Tour Schedule


Red Moon Architect “Return of the Black Butterflies” Album Review & Video…

Red Moon Architect

Return Of The Black Butterflies – CD // DD

Inverse Records – Release Date:  May 19th, 2017

Reviewed by: Terry “The Ancient One” Cuyler

 

Tracklist:
1. The Haunt
2. Tormented
3. Return of the Black Butterflies
4. Journey
5. End of Days
6. NDE

Line-up:
Saku Moilanen – Schlagzeug & Keyboard
Ville Rutanen – Gesang
Matias Moilanen – Gitarre
Anni Viljanen – Gesang
Jukka Jauhiainen – Bass

Hey all this is Terry The Ancient One and I’d  like to tell all you doomophiles out there about  Return of the Black Butterflies, by the Funeral Doom Metalers Red Moon Architect.  Founded in  Kouvola, Finland  in 2011, Return of the Black Butterflies will be Red Moon Architect’s 3rd album.  It also will bring a big change for the band with their new vocalist formerly of Casket Ville Rutanen. While the departure of  Juuso Turkki  must have been difficult for the band, I am certain long time fans and those who have never heard of  Red Moon Architect are getting a great album.

Pro Band Pic

 

Red Moon Architect  fearlessly uses musical contrast with crushing doom and sweeping melodies to creates a sense of drama in their music. Opening with ‘The Haunt’ drummer/keyboardist Saku Moilanen sets the mood for the entire album with a haunting keyboard instrumental that transports the listeners to what to me feels like the wind swept icy Steppes where the icy winds and chilling howling winds have driven men mad. Following his keyboard lead in, Saku takes up his 2nd job as drummer with guitarist Matais Moilanen and bassist Jukka Jauhiainen to bring Ville Rutanen with vocals that sound like they come from the depths of Hell which are at times complimented by chilling doom riffs.  At other times tracks are contrasted by somber melodies that compliment  the haunting vocals of  Anni Viljanen’s. I really have a difficult time picking any songs as favorites from this majestic album.  They all sort of blend into one another making this one of those albums that I believe must be listened to in it’s entirety.  Set to be released May, 19th,2017  Red Moon Architect’s  Return of the Black Butterflies is now available for pre-order.

https://www.recordshopx.com/artist/red_moon_architect/return_of_the_black_butterflies/#524100

 


Mastodon “Emperor Of Sand” – Album Review & Videos…

Mastodon

Emperor Of Sand – Vinyl // CD // DD

Reprise Records – Released March 31st, 2017

Reviewed By Andy “Dinger” Beresky

  

Mastodon have a long and rather complicated history, and it’s been a real treat to witness their constant and unpredictable evolution first hand.  I’ll be totally frank here – I got on board with Remission and saw them support High On Fire live in Boston on that tour.  Excellent drumming first and foremost, good riffs, and a sweet live show, I’ll give them that.  Yet I was never totally on board.  As much as some people love to tout that album as some sort of high point for the band, I see it as a fledgling band flexing their muscles, yet still looking for a focus.  Sure, the drumming is nothing short of astounding, practically a non-stop jazz drum fill by modern legend Brann Daylor.  The guitar interplay was equally impressive, mixing devastating down-tuned riffing with complicated, labyrinthine passages of dueling melodies and harmonies.  Still, for me, much of it sounded one dimensional.  A constant drum fill gets old when it doesn’t have enough groove to offset it, the vocals were largely mono-tonal, and the songwriting didn’t always stick for me.  An impressive debut for sure, and for all the listens I’ve given that album, I can only remember how two songs on the album actually go.  It lacked hooks for me, it just wasn’t catchy enough.

 

Promo Image

 

That’s where Leviathan came in, where the band was able to balance the drumming, work some melody into the vocals, and hone the songwriting to mix their more proggy elements with legitimately catchy choruses.  Looking back, I like this album best, as do many other fans.  It was a rough road ahead from there, filled with major label contracts, near ceaseless touring, and more experimentation in the songwriting department.  Blood Mountain had its moments, though it lacked coherency and was generally all over the place.  Despite this, it earned them new fans and brought their music to a larger crowd.  This brings us up to Crack The Skye, a rather contentious album in their catalog, especially for me.  I will state up front, I do not like Brendan O’Brien as a producer.  He has a tendency to take guitar-heavy bands and totally neuter the guitars in favor of a radio-friendly wax job.  Do you remember the vast contrast between Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger and Superunknown??  Sure, both are great albums with great songs, though listen to the difference in how the guitars sound, and where they are in the mix.

O’Brien did the same thing with Mastodon, and I initially didn’t like Cracke The Sky.  I saw them on this tour.  Live, it came across much more powerfully; it was thick and commanding.  Guitarist/singer Brent Hines was sighted pissing on parked cars outside of Fenway Park afterwards, so you know that he felt good about the performance.  I’m digressing a bit.  My point is that the material was strong, the concept was there, and though they’d incorporate more melodies and even fairly impressive three part harmonies into the overall fold, I don’t think the vocals were strong enough to be placed that far in the forefront of the mix….which is exactly what O’Brien does.  However, I have to hand it to O’Brien on Emperor Of Sand – there’s a nice balance to the harmonized vocals and the weighty guitars, they’ve still got some rawness and bite.

At this point, I’m kind of at a loss as to what to write, and more importantly, what not to write about Mastodon.  I’ve had a long personal history with the band, having seen them multiple times, sometimes good and sometimes not.  I’ve played with them, which was….special.  I have heard stories from mutual acquaintances that have toured with them.  There’s plenty of personal anecdotes I could write about that would paint them in a rather unflattering light, and as interesting as that would be, as we love to watch train wrecks here in the United States, thus our current political makeup.  I could write 100 pages on the things I’ve witnessed and the things I’ve heard about the band.  However, do I really need to go there and be an asshole??  No.  That’s one of the other problems with our current political makeup – where is the line between “free speech” and just being a disrespectful asshole?? Most of us know by now that Brent Hinds is a total wildman who says and does some crazy pants things, and the other members of the band have had their own struggles.  Let’s just focus on the struggles that are relevant to the music itself rather than the gossip, shall we?

I think the most important struggles have been how the members of Mastodon have processed deaths of family members.  This is the second death of a loved one that has led to a concept album, with the first being Crack The Skye.  To me, that’s what art is really about, and I’ll give them all sorts of kudos for channeling that kind of sadness and loss into creative, poignant and powerful works of art that explore the nature of being an authentic human.  Emperor Of Sand indeed has an intriguing concept, though I’d need many, many more listens with it to fully unravel the meanings and personal connections.  For the record, I’ve already listened to the album more than thirty times.  It’s very dense conceptually, in terms of both the music itself and the lyrical content.

 

Pro band Shot

 

Another thing I really like about the album is how it combines the rock oriented songwriting of their two prior albums with the conceptual and progressive tendencies of their earlier works.  The album is really top-loaded with the more straightforward, catchy tunes like “Show Yourself”, which almost sounds like a Queens Of The Stone Age outtake from Songs For The Deaf.  The first few songs are definitely the rockers, while as the album deepens, the more progressive elements begin to dominate – the synthesizers, the odd time signatures, the mathy riffs, and the epic finale “Jaguar God.”  I like this a lot about the album, how its paced and structured.  There are a few things that I do not like.  I’m feeling annoyed about their continued reliance on guest musicians, especially how it feels like they over-utilize Scott Kelly.  I love Neurosis and all, and seriously….does he have to be a guest on EVERY album??  It’s become quite an old shtick at this point.

Much like everything the band has done, this isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea.  It’s sometimes tough for an established and successful band to do so.  Fans always want to hear something “more like the old stuff”, and yet, when a band just regurgitates the same album over and over, fans tend to tire of that as well.  It’s like Bob Marley said, “you can please some people sometimes, but you can’t please all the people all the time.”  Quoted for truth.  I tend to respect artists like David Bowie, Lou Reed, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Smashing Pumpkins, artists who deliberately try to redefine themselves with each recording.  I think that the most important people one can please with a release is themselves, accomplish that and the rest will follow.

 


Matt Chanway “Self Titled” – Album Review & Stream…

Matt Chanway

Self Titled – DD only 

Self Released:  December 25, 2016

Reviewed by Terry “The Ancient One” Cuyler

For some people listening to Instrumental musicians can be difficult. After all most stories are told with words or pictures. Trying to convey a story through music alone alone is no easy feat. It seems to me Matt Chanway of the Canadian black metal band Assimilation was up for the challenge when he wrote his “Self Titled” debut album.  This solo project sounds like an army of musicians when it’s Matt pulling out all the stops.  Layers and Layers of wicked hooks and riffs that have a purpose and sense of direction that many instrumental musicians / bands often times lack.  Not the case with Matt Chanway!!

 

 

From beginning to end Matt plays at a furious pace taking the listener on a unearthly ride through the Wyrd. With soaring and diving guitar leads, technical leads, its easy to get lost in this album. But that’s okay I love to get lost in music. Listeners of his past work with band Assimilation will get to hear Matt unchained from the conventions of black metal.

‘Evidence of the Arcane’ is the first track on Matt’s debut album and seems aptly named. Exploding in my head like an epiphany the album’s 5 other tracks: ‘The Receiver of Wisdom’, ‘Harbinger 2.1’, ‘271114’,  ‘Eyes in the Sky’, and  ‘Lucidity’ all felt like chapters in a tale of Metal discovery to me. This is definitely an album worth owning.  For fans of Isis the Band and Karma to Burn to name two.

 


VANGOUGH ‘Warpaint’ Review & Album Stream

Oklahoma City’s Vangough recently released their latest studio effort ‘Warpaint‘ and the accolades have mounted ever since. Rightly so too because this, the band’s fifth studio album (along with an EP and live album as well) is yet another leap light years ahead for Progressive Rock as a whole. Cut from a similar cloth as acts like Soen, Opeth or Dream The Electric Sleep, the music of Vangough is founded on technicality and emotion. Forward-thinking musical expanses constructed on the juxtaposition of differing styles of sonics is what ‘Warpaint‘ is all about. Guitarist/vocalist Clay Withrow, bassist Jeren Martin and drummer Kyle Haws embed massive amounts of feeling and experimentation into these songs.

Exposure begins with the darkly-hued introductory track ‘Morphine‘, a heavy-handed song that shudders with powerful bass lines. Stitched with intricate guitar melodies, things soon take on more melodic elements before erupting into caustic sections of a more aggressive nature. Near song’s end things have dissolved into some truly heavy sonics, ones augmented with guttural vocalizations and crushing density. Shifting intensities, alternating energy levels and multifaceted diversity permeates songs like ‘Dust‘, ‘Gravity‘ and the powerful ‘Till Nothing’s Left‘. The latter a somewhat Tool-like trek into soul-jarring music that’s followed by one of the more haunting tunes of the record, ‘Knell‘. Quite sedate and even, dare I say it, more stripped down, the song pulsates with haunting nuances that bleed like an open wound. Things end with the eleven minute-plus ‘Black Rabbit‘, a track where everything presented prior culminates in this stellar, stand-alone song. Epic and sweeping, this ending song is perhaps my favorite of the album..the drumming alone is mind-blowing too. It is definitely a highlight where the trio pull out all the stops and strut their stuff so to speak.

In closing, it is easy to see, and hear, why Vangough are so well respected and why ‘Warpaint‘ is such an increasingly popular record. Also, it is no wonder they astounded audiences at ProgPower USA XV in 2014 and why people clamor to see the band live when they can. ‘Warpaint‘ is a contrasting, temperamental opus that possesses riveting music and enthralling content in general. Regardless if you are or aren’t a fan of progressive metal, this album will astound you and make you a fan of Vangough period. – Pat Riot Whitaker